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Massachusetts Gaming Regulators Agree to Adjudicatory Hearing for ESPN Analyst Comments

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Jun 6, 2024 · 1:50 PM PDT

Rece Davis speaks during ESPN's 'College GameDay' broadcast ahead of No. 4 Tennessee's basketball game against No. 10 Texas at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has agreed to hold an adjudicatory hearing for comments made by ESPN analyst Rece Davis
  • A comment from Davis on College GameDay in March has led to the hearing
  • Commissioner compares his comments about a “risk-free” bet with Barstool Sportsbook’s former “Can’t Lose Parlay” promotion

A comment about a bet being a “risk-free investment” during a March college basketball show on ESPN has led to an adjudicatory hearing for PENN Interactive with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Massachusetts gaming regulators unanimously agreed today to hold a hearing regarding ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis’s on-air comments during a late-March ESPN BET “best bets” segment.

“It’s an area that I, as a commissioner, am concerned about, this cross-pollination between ESPN commentators, the lines and the betting, and the commentary that they make. I would like us to do a deep dive,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said at the meeting.

Compared With Barstool’s “Can’t Lose Parlay” Promo

On Sunday, March 24, ESPN College GameDay host Davis described an ESPN BET “best bets” segment, which touted the under for UConn and Northwestern’s second round NCAA matchup, as not gambling but a “risk-free investment.”

The comments in question took place during a  segment in which ESPN BET’s Erin Dolan extolled the under for UConn and Northwestern’s second round NCAA matchup as one of her “best bets” of the day. After Dolan’s comments, Davis finished the segment with this:

“You know what, some would call this wagering, gambling, I think the way you sold this…I think what it is, is risk-free investment. That’s the way to look at it.”

Davis later clarified his remarks on social media and described the comment as joke.

However, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously agreed by a 4-0 vote that his statement was enough to warrant an adjudicatory hearing in the commonwealth. Representatives for ESPN BET and PENN Interactive will appear before the MGC at a future date for the hearing, which could result in a fine.

Several commissioners compared the Davis comments to a previous sports betting promo they took umbrage with.

“This reminds me of the Can’t Lose Parlay we delved into with Barstool. This is something I’ve been waiting to come up, I want to see if this is a one off, if there have been other references in their vein,” O’Brien said.

In June 2023, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission held an adjudicatory hearing on a popular promo from Barstool Sports personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz. Named the “Can’t Lose Parlay,” the promo began in 2019 and typically featured boosted parlays of three-to-four legs promoted by the popular sports media personality on social media and the Barstool Sportsbook app.

The MGC became aware of the offering in March 2023 and required Barstool Sportsbook discontinue the promo. Barstool legal counsel argued that “no-reasonable person” could see such a long-shot parlay and believe they were participating in a “no-risk bet.” The title of the promo played on the fact that Katz is not a successful gambler, counsel argued.

The commission argued that it was their duty to protect those in the state who did not know the background of the promotion and who may just bet on the parlay because they see Katz doing so. An assumption could not be made that every user understood that the promo title was “satirical” and would win every time, MGC members noted.

The commission has yet to release its ruling on this adjudicatory hearing to the public.

Two Other Non-Compliance Issues

The MGC today also made a determination on two other non-compliance issues involving FanDuel and PENN Interactive.

FanDuel allowed three wagers on Boston College’s participation in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament between March 12 and March 13, 2024, for a total of $11.

PENN Interactive allowed approximately 249 wagers on college basketball games involving teams from league that are not approved for betting in the state with total stakes of approximately $12,075.

Both matters were referred back to the Investigations Enforcement Bureau for further review and potential action.

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